January 19, 2014 6:15pm PT by Marisa Guthrie
'Tonight Show': Jimmy Fallon on a Longer Monologue, Getting Stars to Loosen Up
Jimmy Fallon has had an ongoing dialogue with Jay Leno for the past several months. And it was Leno who told Fallon that when he takes over NBC's venerable Tonight Show franchise, he would have to make his monologue much longer.
"Imagine being a monologue writer, you've got to be real psyched when you get that advice," Fallon told reporters gathered at the Television Critics Association press tour Sunday. "They're already stressed out, so now they've got to write double the material."
Leno's monologue, which covers the news of the day, is close to 10 minutes. Fallon's Late Night monologue is about four minutes tops. But a longer, more topical monologue will be the most noticeable difference from his scrappy 12:37 a.m. entry, or as Fallon noted dryly, "whenever they put me on." Fallon's forte, and what has distinguished his show from the late-night competition, has been persuading celebrities from Hollywood to the halls of power to participate in self-deprecating skits. And Fallon promised that will not change.
"I like to [have] celebrities tell me about their movies, but I also like to see a different side of celebrities," he said, adding that Tom Cruise's publicist refused to even ask her client if he would play "egg roulette" on Late Night. Fallon asked Cruise himself, and as anyone who watches Late Night knows, Cruise lost in short order and ended up cracking two raw eggs on his head.
Fallon also has had President Barack Obama slow jam the news and first lady Michelle Obama demonstrate "mom dancing," and he performed a duet with Bruce Springsteen poking fun at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (a Springsteen super-fan) and the George Washington bridge scandal. (Fallon said he called Christie's office to warn them about the Springsteen duet. "The silver lining is Springsteen says your name," offered Fallon.)
As for the decision to use "starring" in the title instead of "with," Fallon and his executive producer Josh Lieb explained that it is an homage to the show's roots when Steve Allen and then Johnny Carson hosted the show, and both used the former.
"It's a little tip of the cap to the origins of the show," said Fallon.
But Fallon and Lieb glided past questions about how Leno's next move could impact them. Leno has declined to entertain post-Tonight Show offers until he's finished his run on the show. And sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that it's unlikely he'll stay at NBC, despite NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt's publicly stated desire to keep Leno in the NBC family.
"Maybe he could be a new detective on The Blacklist," offered Fallon.